This could also be a tip about Warnings and Dangers... But it is also about my favourite things: the fantastic mountains of the region that BTW are still rising...
As said in my intro, the Kaikouras are not a single but two mountain ranges, the Seaward and the Inland Kaikouras. They are divided by a deep fault. Through part of that fault runs the Clarence River which flows into the Ocean seven kilometres north of Waipapa Bay – the place with the colourful crayfish shop.
Whereas the Alpine Fault runs along the western edge of the Southern Alps, it splits into three parallel faults north of Arthur’s Pass. One of these faults is the one that divides the Kaikoura Ranges.
Faultlines mean earthquakes – we experience them on a daily basis in New Zealand. But most are so shallow that we do not get aware of them.
Good comfortable shoes is a must. An umbrella for rainy days. Hat / sunscreen is a must for sunny days. It's best to have enough as this is a small town, you might not be able to find what you usually use. If you do, it might be a little bit more expensive. It's best to carry enough batteries and film with you.
Good for a quick stop or a full meal
The Beach House cafe is a nice spot on the main road before you get into the very busy part of Kaikoura. Everything from toasted sandwichs to full breakfasts are served with a selection of wines (average selection to be honest) and tea/coffee.
from the Hill top
great viewpoint from the surrounding hills of Kairoura and its beaches. an afternoon stroll after a good lunch is an ideal time to see a lot of birdlife, when lucky a whale out in the ocean, you will meet some seals along the way, till you arrive on the top. good and easy walkways up there and don't forget your camera and binoculos
Let me say straight up that I thought the Whale Watch tour a bit overpriced. Opinions will differ vastly from, "It looks just like a log floating on the water..." to, "It was awesome!" I position myself somewhere in-between.
PREPARATORY: There is no doubting that the Kaikoura Whale Watch tour is extremely popular. Their website is very professional and succeeds in selling the product. Therefore, book ahead! We did over the internet and it was a painless experience.
ARRIVAL: The Whale Watch departure point is at their office situated in Whaleway on the Kaikoura beachfront. Beautiful beach and ocean views! Staff will inform you of sea conditions and possible cancellations. You will also get a coloured wristband to identify your tour group. Take a seat in the video lounge and view the high quality images of Kaikoura's bio-bounty. Presently, a staff member will give a short briefing prior to your departure by bus to the harbour. If you suffer from sea sickness - now is the time to take preventative measures (which is sold on location).
TOUR: After a short bus trip, board your craft and take a seat for the cruise towards the deep-water canyon. No one is allowed to move while in transit. A further briefing and video follows as the vessel skims over the swells towards its destination. If you feel queasy, fix your view on the horizontal lines of the coast or even the horizon. Fresh air also helps...
SIGHTS: In sunshine, the water is absolutely beautiful and the green coastline and majestic mountains form a perfect backdrop. Whale Watch offers a significant discount if they fail to locate a whale. This is highly unlikely, as they strongly rely on a resident sperm whale and they take great pains to explain that a single sighting is a successful tour! Anything more than that is a bonus. As expected, we located the sperm whale, and after bobbing on the ocean currents for about half an hour, we saw the behemoth "log", which is a description of how the whale floats up to the surface with a small portion of its body showing above the chop while the bulk remains beneath the waterline. A binoculars or zoom lens is a very good option! The great moment is when the whale dives, and staff give you plenty of notice before that happens: look out for that tail!
We were fortunate enough to spot a shark, several seals as well as a magnificent albatross on its singular journey to an unknown destination. Having seen the whale, the tour usually departs closer in to shore for a view of the large pods of dolphins that frequent this area. My wife enjoyed this more than spotting the whale. Hundreds of dolphins cavort in a burst of frenetic energy as other tour operators guide patrons into the water for a swim with these wonderful creatures.
On our way back to the harbour we were surprised to find a humpback whale - out of season and quite close to the shore. A bonus!